Perceval, John (1683-1748) (DNB00)

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PERCEVAL, JOHN, first Earl of Egmont (1683–1748), born at Burton in the county of Cork on 12 July 1683, was the second son of Sir John Perceval, bart., by his wife Catherine, fourth daughter of Sir Edward Dering, bart., of Surrenden-Dering, Kent. Sir Philip Perceval [q. v.] was his great-grandfather. While a child he lost both his parents. His father died of gaol-fever, caught while serving as foreman of the grand jury at the Cork assizes on 29 April 1686; while his mother, who, in August 1690, married a second husband, one Colonel Butler, died on 2 Feb. 1692. He succeeded his elder brother Edward as fifth baronet on 9 Nov. 1691, and in 1698 was sent by his guardian, Sir Robert Southwell, to Westminster School. He matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford, on 18 Nov. 1699, but left the university in June 1701 without taking any degree, and in 1702 was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. At the general election in the following year he was returned to the Irish House of Commons for the county of Cork, and in October 1704 was sworn a member of the privy council in Ireland. Between July 1705 and October 1707 he made the usual grand tour of Europe, and at the general election in 1713 was again elected one of the members for the county of Cork. On the accession of George I he was sworn a member of the new privy council in Ireland, and on 21 April 1715 was created Baron Perceval of Burton in the county of Cork, with a special remainder to the heirs male of his father. He took his seat in the Irish House of Lords on 12 Nov. 1715 (Journals of the Irish House of Lords, ii. 454). In 1719, with other Irish peers, he vainly petitioned the king to refuse his consent to the bill which not only asserted the subjection of the Irish parliament, but also denied all power of appellate jurisdiction to the Irish House of Lords (6 Geo. I, cap. 5). Though he had attached himself to the court of the Prince of Wales, he was created Viscount Perceval of Kanturk in the county of Cork on 25 Feb. 1723, and at the same time an annual fee of twenty marks payable out of the Irish exchequer was granted to him in support of that honour. On the accession of George II Perceval was for the third time sworn a member of the privy council in Ireland. At the general election in August 1727 he was returned to the British House of Commons for the borough of Harwich, which he represented until the dissolution in April 1734, and in June 1728 he was appointed recorder of Harwich, a post which he resigned in April 1734. Perceval served on the select committee appointed by the House of Commons on 25 Feb. 1729 to inquire into the state of the gaols (Journals of the House of Commons, xxi. 237–8; see Parl. Hist. viii. 706–53, 803–26). He assisted James Edward Oglethorpe [q. v.] in his project of founding a settlement in America for the purpose of providing an asylum for insolvent debtors and for persons fleeing from religious persecution, and was appointed the first president of the trustees incorporated by royal charter dated 9 June 1732 for establishing the colony of Georgia. On 2 Nov. 1733 he presented a memorial to the king from the Irish peers protesting against their exclusion from the ceremonies connected with the then approaching marriage of the Princess Royal with William, prince of Orange, and on the 6th of the same month was created Earl of Egmont in the peerage of Ireland. Though Egmont claimed to be descended from the same stock as the famous Egmonts of Flanders, the title of this earldom was undoubtedly taken from a townland of that name in the parish of Churchtown in the county of Cork, where Burton House, the Irish residence of the Percevals, was also situated. Egmont died in London on 1 May 1748, aged 64, and was buried at Erwarton in Suffolk.

He married, on 20 June 1710, Catherine, elder daughter of Sir Philip Parker à Morley, bart., of Erwarton, Suffolk, by whom he had three sons—viz.: John [q. v.], who succeeded him as the second Earl of Egmont; Philip Clarke, born on 21 June 1714, who died an infant; and George, born on 28 Jan. 1722, who died in July 1726—and four daughters, viz.: Catherine, who was married, on 14 April 1733, to Thomas Hanmer of Fenns, Flintshire, and died on 16 Feb. 1748; Anne, born on 12 May 1713, and Mary, born on 28 Dec. 1716, both of whom died infants; and Helena, who was married, on 10 Nov. 1741, to Sir John Rawdon, bart. (afterwards first Earl of Moira), and died on 12 June 1746. Lady Egmont died on 22 Aug. 1749. Engravings of Egmont and his wife by Faber, after Hysing and Gouge respectively, will be found in vol. ii. of the ‘Genealogical History of the House of Yvery,’ opposite pp. 403 and 444. A whole-length portrait of Egmont by Kneller has been engraved by Smith.

Egmont was much ridiculed for his pomposity; but he possessed ability and public spirit (see Lodge, Peerage of Ireland, 1789, ii. 265 n.) He thrice refused the offer of an English peerage (Genealogical Hist. of the House of Yvery, ii. 443). He actively superintended the colonisation of Georgia, withholding ‘neither money, time, nor influence in his ceaseless efforts to advance what he conceived to be the best interests of the province,’ and keeping with his own hand ‘A Journal of the Transactions of the Trustees,’ &c., the second and third volumes of which have been printed; Wormsloe, 1886, 4to (see Preface to the above, p. viii). He also took a keen interest in antiquarian and genealogical studies, and was esteemed a very high authority on matters of precedence. He collected the materials for the ‘Genealogical History of the House of Yvery in its different branches of Yvery, Luvel, Perceval, and Gournay,’ London, 1742, 2 vols. 8vo, which was compiled under his superintendence by James Anderson (1680?–1739) [q. v.] and William Whiston. Though Boswell praises Egmont for his ‘accuracy and generous zeal,’ very little of what is stated in that work ‘is to be depended upon from the commencement down to the fourteenth century’ (Drummond, Noble British Families, 1846, vol. ii.) Egmont appears to have written various letters and essays upon moral subjects in the ‘Weekly Miscellany,’ and to have left in manuscript several volumes of biographical collections, which were lent by his grandson, Lord Arden, to Dr. Andrew Kippis, who made use of them in the second edition of the ‘Biographia Britannica’ (Biogr. Brit. 1789, vol. iv. p. viii). These volumes, together with much of Egmont's correspondence and several of his diaries, are in the possession of the present Earl of Egmont (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 13, App. pp. 232–49). He was the author of: 1. ‘The Controversy in relation to the Test and Corporation Acts clearly disputed in a Dialogue between a Dissenter and a Member of the Establish'd Church,’ &c., London, 1733, 8vo; anon. 2. ‘An impartial Enquiry into the State and Utility of the Province of Georgia,’ London, 1741, 8vo; anon. This is also attributed to Benjamin Martyn, the secretary of the trustees for establishing the colony of Georgia. 3. ‘Remarks upon a scandalous piece entitled “A brief Account of the Causes that have retarded the Progress of the Colony of Georgia in America,”’ London, 1743, 8vo; anon. The authorship of ‘The Great Importance of a Religious Life,’ written by William Melmoth the elder [q. v.], was erroneously ascribed to Egmont by Horace Walpole.

[Besides the authorities quoted in the text, the following books among others have been consulted: Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors, 1806, v. 294–300; Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill, iv. 198, v. 449 n.; Brydges's Censura Literaria, 1815, v. 73 n.; G. E. C.'s Complete Peerage, 1890, iii. 244–5; Foster's Peerage, 1883, p. 258; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714, iii. 1146; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 63, 645, 649; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. x. 129, 334, 2nd ser. viii. 398, 537, 8th ser. v. 147, 187, 254, 432, 433; Watt's Bibl. Brit. 1824; Halkett and Laing's Dict. of Anon. and Pseudon. Literature, 1882–8; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.